innopac

Defection and the Difficulties Specific to Ballet

14 posts in this topic

Solomon Volkov:

"
I've met many people here who fled Russia at one time or another, and in my conversations with them I have seen that their defection was a terrible psychological trauma, a wound that won't heal, even if sixty years have passed since that day.
" p168

Joseph Brodsky:

"
On the other hand, Godunov had been a star from early on and consequently corrupted to a certain extent by success and admiration. At the moment of his defection he was absolutely alone--no mama, no wife, no friends, no one. He had absolutely no one to turn to, and he could expect nothing but dirty tricks on all sides.
" p171

"
This was a leap into the absolute unknown on Godunov's part.
" p171

From:

Volkov, Solomon.
Conversations with Joseph Brodsky: a poet's journey through the twentieth century
. The Free Press, New York, 1998. pp306

Individuals who have defected lose so much more than the possibility of return. Writers must face the loss of unity of place and language, the cultural basis of their creativity. Some have continued in isolation to write in their birth language while others make the difficult transition to the language of their new world. There are comedians who have found their humor is no longer understood because its cultural basis has been removed by their leaving of their homeland. Reading the quoted passages above made me want to ask if there are hardships unique to ballet that dancers who have defected would have had to face.

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On the other hand, one of the advantages of ballet, however small in the big picture, is that it has a common worldwide vocabulary and much communication, instruction, and learning through gesture and observation. A defector in ballet did not need to start from scratch, like many professionals with credentials that didn't translate, business assets lost, and less-than-perfect language skills, although not all ballet defectors were able to retain the status and prestige they had in their homelands.

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Godunov had no wife (Brodsky)? So who was that woman on the plane sitting on the JFK tarmac for what seemed an interminable time?

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My late husband, a ballet master/company teacher, defected from East Germany in 1971 eventually settling in NYC. Because he had connections with others who had defected, he was connected immediately with Howard Gilman, who was quite generous with many of the well-known and less well-known defectors of the 1960s and 1970s. Shelter and food was provided while my husband was able to secure work in his field. I know of quite a few of that era who were taken care of most generously by this very generous patron of the ballet and music world. :bow::flowers:

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The Cuban situation seems especially complex. Some ballet dancers have been allowed to train and work abroad, returning to perform. Others have been prevented and have had to defect.

On the other hand, there is a large, supportive Cuban community, dedicated to preserving Cuban culture and to networking, in many parts of the US, so there is a strong support network once the defecting dancer gets here.

Thanks, innopac, for this topic. It led me back to a 2005 thread on Rolando Sarabia, who -- it now turns out -- will soon be joining Miami City Ballet as a principal. Here's the Link: http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=20400

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Godunov had no wife (Brodsky)? So who was that woman on the plane sitting on the JFK tarmac for what seemed an interminable time?

Yes, Godunov was married to the ballerina, Ludmila Vlasova. She was the woman in the plane. By saying "no wife" Brodsky is referring to Godunov being on his own from the point his defection started. According to Brodsky during the volatile situation that unfolded in August 1979 there was a request by the Soviets that they be allowed a meeting with Godunov. Godunov's lawyer, Orville Schell, suggested that one of Godunov's conditions be a meeting with his wife so that she could decide of her own free will if she wanted to stay in the US. This meeting never happened.

Brodsky:

"
For me there is absolutely no doubt that Mila was extremely dear to Sasha. They had been married for seven years, and when seven years of conjugal life goes up in smoke, exclusively due to political considerations, it's unbearable even to contemplate.
" p 175

"
I don't think even Sasha's mind was totally clear, because until you actually defect, you don't understand what's involved. Sasha simply could not have thought it all through down to the details, which would have been impossible to imagine anyway! Evidently, he proceeded from the assumption that everything would work out somehow.

Godunov guessed that after New York they were planing to send him back to Moscow. He realized there was no time, that the discussions with Mila would stretch out indefinitely. He might have talked her into it eventually, but the moment would have been lost. It's one thing to make plans to defect in the Soviet Union and another in New York City. That is when Sasha decided to carry out at least the one part of the plan that was paramount for him, because for him the main thing was his self fulfillment as an artist. After all, Godunov was and foremost an artist and only then a husband.
" page 175-6

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i seem to remember that there was actually film on the news of her reception by the public after the first performance she gave when she returned, very much out of proportion to the role she was dancing that night?

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She still had children (from a previous marriage) in Moscow, didn't she?

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i seem to remember that there was actually film on the news of her reception by the public after the first performance she gave when she returned, very much out of proportion to the role she was dancing that night?

Answering my own question, this might be what I was talking about, from the television news archive at Vanderbilt University, from ABC News:

http://72.14.205.104/search?q=cache:46YGkn...;cd=5&gl=us

ABC Evening News for Sunday, Sep 23, 1979

Headline: Vlasova

Abstract: (Studio) Report with regard to talks in Moscow between China (PR) and USSR given. Performance of Ludmila Vlasova in ballet version of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" announced her refusal to defect with husband Alexander Godunov and 2 other Bolshoi dancers recalled.

REPORTER: Sam Donaldson

(Moscow, USSR ) Performance of Vlasova shown and described.

REPORTER: Charles Bierbauer

Which was, as I find, preceded by this:

http://72.14.205.104/search?q=cache:wKUmdu...cd=14&gl=us

ABC Evening News for Monday, Sep 03, 1979

Headline: Vlasova

Abstract: (Studio) Apparent boost to ballet career of Ludmila Vlasova by her upcoming role in Bolshoi production of "Much Ado About Nothing" announced.

REPORTER: Peter Jennings

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and the following from Time Magazine of September 10, 1979:

Negotiations over the proper meeting place dragged on for three days, while the Soviet passengers camped out in the plane. There was an exchange between Presidents Carter and Brezhnev. Finally, an agreement was reached: a mobile lounge was rolled up to the plane, and Vlasova entered in the company of six representatives from each nation. She calmly assured the Americans that she wanted to go home.

If Vlasova had needed pressuring to return to the U.S.S.R., there was ample time to persuade her. When she arrived in Moscow, Vlasova was quoted as denouncing the U.S. for trying to compel her to stay, and was hailed hi the Soviet press as a heroine "who took a position of dignity and lofty civic duty" in the face of the "bourgeois brigands" of the U.S. If nothing else, the manner of her exit has probably saved her from what otherwise would have been her fate: the stigma of being the wife of a "traitor" with consequent loss of status, pay and dance roles.

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ABC Evening News for Sunday, Sep 23, 1979

Headline: Vlasova

Abstract: (Studio) Report with regard to talks in Moscow between China (PR) and USSR given. Performance of Ludmila Vlasova in ballet version of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" announced her refusal to defect with husband Alexander Godunov and 2 other Bolshoi dancers recalled.

Now, wait just a moment. I recall that whole incident rather well, and Vlasova was given a benefit performance of "Fountain of Bakhchisarai" upon her return. I don't know if the "Much Ado" ever came off.

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hmm. the plot thickens...i don't know what authority this is based on but this is an odd footnote.

http://eightiesclub.tripod.com/id102.htm

In USSR, Bolshoi Ballerina Ludmilla Vlasova wants to join husband, ballet star/defector Alexander Godunov, in U.S

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hmm. the plot thickens...

"Bolshoi ballerina Ludmilla Vlasova, centre of a Soviet-U.S. confrontation last month when she left her defector husband in New York City, is regretting her decision to come home, Bolshoi sources report. Miss Vlasova is being shunned and ridiculed by fellow dancers, who will not talk to her because they think she ''sold her soul'' to Soviet officials in return for better roles, the sources say."

quoted from "Ballerina sorry she left".
The Globe and Mail
. 11 Sept 1979. p19

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